Teenager Me: “Nona, I am on a diet and trying to lose weight. I can’t eat that.” Nona sweetly and with a chuckle: “The place where I come from, everyone eats this and no one is fat.”
It doesn’t take more than that for me to dig in. Soft mounds of yellow cornmeal pillows await, surprisingly light for being heavy, alternating with a slightly browned, nutty butter, and freshly grated hard cheese – also known as “Polenta Cunciata.” Occasionally the browned butter is seasoned with fresh sage from the garden.
What my Nona didn’t mention was the fact that she lived in the Alps in northern Italy at more than 10,000 feet of elevation. There were few cars or appliances. The wash was done by hand. The rugs were beaten with a long handled broom to clean them. The few recreational activities included skiing and hiking. People worked hard to survive and calorie dense meals such as this sustained them.
I once offered to make this traditional Northern Italian peasant food dish to share with my co-workers. One woman hesitated before commenting that she avoids cornmeal because it is a food used to fatten pigs before slaughter.
Polenta Cunciata – will YOU join me???